Williams v. Lee
358 U.S. 217 (1959)

Annotate this Case
  • Syllabus  | 
  • Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Williams v. Lee, 358 U.S. 217 (1959)

Williams v. Lee

No. 39

Argued November 20, 1958

Decided January 12, 1959

358 U.S. 217


Respondent, who is not an Indian, operates a general store in Arizona on the Navajo Indian Reservation under a license required by federal statute. He brought this action in an Arizona state court against petitioners, a Navajo Indian and his wife who live on the Reservation, to collect for goods sold to them there on credit. They moved to dismiss on the ground that jurisdiction lay in the tribal court, rather than in the state court.

Held: The motion should have been granted, since the exercise of state jurisdiction in this case would undermine the authority of the tribal courts over Reservation affairs, and hence would infringe on the right of the Indians to govern themselves, which right was recognized by Congress in the Treaty of 1868 with the Navajos, and has never been taken away. Pp. 358 U. S. 217-223.

83 Ariz. 241, 319 P.2d 998, reversed.

Primary Holding
The jurisdiction of state courts does not extend to Indian reservations unless Congress specifically permits.

Disclaimer: Justia Annotations is a forum for attorneys to summarize, comment on, and analyze case law published on our site. Justia makes no guarantees or warranties that the annotations are accurate or reflect the current state of law, and no annotation is intended to be, nor should it be construed as, legal advice. Contacting Justia or any attorney through this site, via web form, email, or otherwise, does not create an attorney-client relationship.

Disclaimer: Official Supreme Court case law is only found in the print version of the United States Reports. Justia case law is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or information linked to from this site. Please check official sources.